Residents vow to fight floodlights plan
RESIDENTS living near football club AEK BOCO's base in Hanham have warned they will fight tooth and nail to stop plans for what they call a 'budding football stadium'.
The club is drawing up proposals to put up floodlights around the main pitch at Greenbank Playing Field and install two spectator stands to accommodate around 100 people, with up to 50 seats and 50 standing spaces.
They say the plans would enable the club to progress and argue the impact would be minimal as the floodlights would only be switched on during Saturday match days and one midweek evening.
But many people living nearby say the floodlights are too close to local homes and would "adversely affect" their quality of life.
AEK BOCO, which is the largest FA community club in the region with nearly 650 players representing 41 teams, revealed the plans at a public meeting at the club's pavilion in April.
About 100 people, including Hanham councillors John Goddard and June Bamford, packed into the main room to
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hear the club's arguments for wanting to expand.
Club chairman John Winters told residents that floodlighting would enable the club to progress and fulfil league requirements.
He said the 9m x 4m proposed stands would be placed next to the club house with a one metre wide path around three sides of the pitch and a 1.8m high fence surrounding it which would be left open to members of the public when matches aren't taking place.
Mr Winters said plans also included improved sporting facilities at sites at Tennis Court Road and Fisher Road, which the club now manages on an ongoing year-long licence following South Gloucestershire Council's decision to back away from the maintenance of sports fields.
He explained that had AEK BOCO not agreed to do so, it would have resulted in the club having to axe 26 teams.
Patrick Daly from Nottingham-based Abacus Lighting addressed the meeting and said the floodlights would be mounted on eight masts which would be 15m high and include 12 individual lights.
He explained the lights are so high so they can be pointed down like a street light which would minimise light 'spill'.
But Steve Ashlin, whose home overlooks the site in Tyler Close, said FA guidelines state that floodlights shouldn't be installed within 65m of houses, which the plans would breach, with some houses as close as 30m from the lights.
"You're not abiding by your own rules," he told the club.
Mike Openshaw, also of Tyler Close, told club members: "It's a residential area - you're surrounded by houses. What you are planning to do is going to adversely affect hundreds of people living in the area."
Although residents agreed the club was doing good job in providing facilities for local people, they argued the site was too small and urged the club to look elsewhere.
One man said: "We don't want any development with lights. Tennis Court Road is the best place for you. Just be happy with what you've got."
Another resident said: "The site is just too small for the club's ambitions. You're surrounded by houses. You need a bigger space."
One man made it clear, that he was determined to do all in his power to fight the plans.
"I'm going to object as strongly as I can - and I'm not without resources," he told the club.
Some residents, however, were in support of the plans and also spoke out.
Denis Kerr told people if it wasn't for the club, his son would not now be on a football scholarship in the States.
"This is not about building a stadium - this is about community football.
"What would happen if the club doesn't get the development? It may fold and what would stop them building on the site? They would build whatever they want to build."
Mr Kerr then warned objectors: "Be careful what you wish for."
This is not the first time the club has put forward proposals for expansion. Two years ago residents mounted a campaign after the club came up with a scheme for six 15m floodlights, a 50-seater stand and two dug outs.
The plans had been lodged with the council but the club withdrew them in light of fierce local opposition.
The club then said it was hoping to work with the council to come up with better guidelines for clubs, like themselves, who licence land from the council.
At the time the club said: "We're hoping these guidelines will give football clubs a clear indication of how far they can progress through the FA national league system on a particular piece of land. Having this information upfront will help clubs plan for the future and avoid situations such as this."
It was clear from the meeting that residents felt they had been let down by South Gloucestershire Council because clearer guidelines had not been put in place.
This was exacerbated by the fact the council had failed to send any officers to the meeting except Miles Harris from the Open Spaces team, who was there as a "fly on the wall" rather than in an official capacity.
"The stress you have put us (residents) under in the last two years is unbelievable," Mr Ashlin said.
"South Gloucestershire Council has let us down. We should not be in this situation."
Following the meeting Mr Winters told the Voice the club would consider retractable floodlighting, although that would be a more costly option.
Under the plans, cricket would be moved from Greenbank to Fisher Road with the intention of applying for funding for an artificial cricket wicket and new dressing room facilities which would cater for football in the winter and cricket in the summer.
Funding would also need to be sought for a clubhouse/changing room and cricket nets at Tennis Court Road as well as to upgrade the floodlit ball court to increase opportunities for netball and tennis.
A report by consultants acting for South Gloucestershire Council for its Playing Pitches, Indoor and Built Sports Facilities Strategies indicates support for the scheme. Both the FA and the English Cricket Board have told AEK BOCO and the council they support the proposals.
A planning application has yet to be submitted to South Gloucestershire Council.